NaFilM: Building the First Czech National Film Museum in Prague

NaFilM - until April 30 @ Palác Chicago

Films are our pop-culture means of entertainment. Films also record the significance of history, but film history is usually forgotten. So, the lack of a museum to honor film history in Prague inspired students of the Film Studies department at Charles University to found NaFilM, their own Czech National Film Museum.

NaFilM is currently housed in Prague’s Palác Chicago, and their exhibit, “Locomotion,” unfolds the history of Czech film and the mechanisms behind the making of motion pictures. This project started four years ago as a collaboration between students and faculty. Their first exhibit was held in 2015 at Museum Montanelli, focusing on Czech film’s heritage. “Locomotion” is the second stage of their efforts toward realizing an actual Czech film museum.

From an optic disc to a 19th century virtual reality device and hologram projector, the exhibition takes visitors back in time to see the evolution of film. It all begins with simple physics and the mechanisms of moving pictures. In the late 19th century, the zoetrope was a new device including a disc with a set of sequenced pictures and a spinning cylinder with many vertical slits, which allowed viewers to look into the slits to observe an illusion of movement. Along with the stroboscopic effect, this was the first and crucial means for projecting films on a screen. Visitors can experience these early motion optic devices in operation at the exhibit

Of course, film technology is constantly changing and improving, and the exhibit shows this process through the early 20th century. Some of the first movies in film history such as How It Feels to Be Run Over are projected, while visitors can see and hear a hologram talking-image of Alexander Hemala, a renown Czech film commentator. In this way, the exhibition is a combination of nostalgia and novelty, which creates a more holistic film experience for visitors.

A highlight of the exhibit is the section on the Czech avant-garde, with their surrealistic cinematic style of the 1920s-30s. In contrast to the growing popular film industry, the surrealists believed that films were killing imagination, because everything was shown and told. Thus, the Czech Surrealists made films of everyday life, seeking out the most ordinary and familiar things in meaningful ways. Surrealistic films such as “Hands on Tuesday” (1935), “The Prague Castle” (1934), and “The Thaumaturgic Eye” (1939) are projected in a screening room of the exhibit.

The exhibition claims to be a living center for film study for the general public, as well as for film students. Adéla Mrázová, Jakub Jiřiště, and Terezie Křižkovská, as the founders and main curators of the exhibition, hope to maintain and record the changes in Czech history via film’s history. Tours in Czech and English are provided along with interactive workshops, screenings and discussions about films. The workshops include animation production themes with various techniques such as the use of puppets, drawings and pixelation. Křižkovská encourages visitors to play and interact with the experience in this exhibition, because it provokes learning and understanding.

“We are film students. We have no experience or expertise with curatorship. We just know what we like when we visit museums, and we’ve created our own. It is quite a risky thing,” says Terezie Křižkovská.

NaFilM should run until April 30th, but the curators hope to prolong the exhibition till the end of the year. They are also planning to continue the series with a different exhibition, which will start from the end of this year or possibly move to a different and permanent location for their Czech National Film Museum.

NaFilM - until April 30 (projected)
Palác Chicago, 2nd floor | Národní třída 32, Praha 1
Tuesday - Sunday: 13.00 - 19.00 | Monday: Closed

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